This is a continuing series based on my recent e-book, How to set up an office at home, published and available from Bookboon.com.
If you want to derive the full benefit of working from home, including an increase in your personal productivity, I recommend you re-purpose a spare bedroom as an office. My bedroom office is shown in the photo. It is about 10’ x 12’, with the closet converted to a storage area for supplies. This repurposed closet also provides a place to hang my various certificates, awards etc. When the doors are closed, they do not distract me; but whenever I open the closet to get more printer paper or whatever, I get a brief whiff of nostalgia to bolster my self-esteem. There is a limit to how much space you can take over and still have enough room for living, but I also managed to repurpose a hall closet and a shoe rack as storage areas as well.
You do not necessarily need all that space to start with. I have managed to work in a repurposed walk-in closet, and even at a built-in desk and bookcase unit in our den in the past. But your performance will be reduced as well.
It is important to have a private area for your business, complete with door if possible, so you have a natural boundary of being “at work” at specific times and “at home” at other times. When you are at work, you are focused on your business, and the work setting helps you transfer into that mindset. We naturally associate a kitchen table with eating, a bed with sleeping and so on. Do not confuse your brain by mixing them up. Working in bed, for example is not efficient, and performance falls.
It has been shown that students can increase their performance at exams by studying different subjects at different locations. Recall of information is improved.
You do not need to spend a lot of money initially to set up an office. If it is functional, do not worry about the aesthetics if you will not be entertaining clients there. You can upgrade once the money starts rolling in. It is a good idea to be cost conscious right from the start, because many entrepreneurs get into trouble later through the habit of overspending. You can save money by re-purposing common household items.
Re-purposing is using something for a purpose other than it was original intended or by modifying it to fit a new use. You are re-purposing when you use a bedroom as an office, the closet is a storage area, a closet shelf as a bookcase, a dessert bowl as a paper clip holder, the bottom half of egg cartons as desk drawer organizers and so on. You could even use cartons for filing cabinets if you find it is just as fast to retrieve the information.
You are re-purposing when you use bedroom dresser drawers for office supplies or any other household item for office use.
It is important to have an organized office to minimize distractions, boost efficiency, lower stress, conserve energy and increase personal comfort while working on your priority tasks.
I know I just suggested that you should watch costs, and you probably have several chairs at home that you could repurpose as an office chair. But you will probably spend a lot of time sitting at your desk working. So, although you could get away with using a kitchen chair, I do recommend that you invest in a comfortable office chair if the office in your home is expected to be long term.
Choose an adjustable chair that allows you to rest your feet on the floor while maintaining your eyes at about 30 inches from the computer screen with the top part of the monitor slightly below eye level. You may need a cushion to support your lower back as well.
Organize your desk and surrounding area so that frequently used materials and supplies and equipment are within reach. The less frequently you use materials, the farther away they should be stored. For example, your stapler, paper clips, writing materials might be on your desk. An organizer tray in your most accessible drawer could contain such items as elastic bands, sticky notes, scissors, tape, batteries, and staples. Another drawer could contain envelopes, stamps, return address labels, forms, invoices, and so on.
If you frequently refer to hard copy files, house them in hanging folders in your desk’s filing drawer or a freestanding filing cabinet within reach. Action files such as next week’s meeting material, invoices to be paid, information for an article being written or items to be reviewed can be held in a vertical step-file device on your desk. But otherwise keep your desk as clear as possible to accommodate your current project.
Whenever possible, store your supplies where they are used – printer paper, ink cartridges etc. near the printer, copier supplies near the copier and so on.
These organizing principles apply to your digital files and forms as well. Have frequently used documents such as your weekly blog articles, tweets, monthly reports etc. in a folder on your desktop. Avoid having to click through five or six levels of document folders every day or week to reach the materials you need. I have a folder on my desktop called “Frequently used files.”
Less frequently used files can be several levels down in your main “Documents” folder. For instance, you might have to click through Writing, Books, E-books, and Bookboon every time you want to check your list of e-books. But if you refer to your Bookboon list several times a day, why not drag the folder to your desktop? A dozen or fewer icons on your desktop should not slow you down much.
Do not allow your computer desktop to be cluttered with dozens of folders and individual documents or you will waste time locating the right one when you need it. File newly created documents in the proper folder as you create them. Temporary storage easily becomes more permanent and slows the retrieval process.

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